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Desperation Drives Black Market for Human Organs

Megan Lynch @MLynchOnAir
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CBS St. Louis (con't)

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) – More than 45-hundred people in the United States died last year while waiting for a kidney.  A documentary film maker visiting St. Louis this weekend says that desperation to live is creating a thriving black market for organs.

“If I can’t find a donor in this country I have to decide whether I’m willing to take on my soul the ethical burden of purchasing a kidney from somebody… or… choose to die.”  – Tales from the Organ Trade, HBO

“Tales from the Organ Trade” profiles people willing to break the law to save their lives, donors willing to sacrifice their bodies for financial gain, and a black market with no protections for either.

Emmy Award-Winning Journalist and Producer Ric Esther Bienstock calls it a “morally complex” issue.  “Anybody who is willing to wire up to $100,000 to a broker on the other side of the planet and have a transplant has to be pretty desperate.”   

She tells KMOX she thought she would see nothing but exploitation.  Instead she says she interviewed people who had no regrets.  “For this young man, maybe selling his kidney isn’t the worst thing in the world for him to do.  It would be a worse thing for him to have to sell his daughter.  It would be a worse thing for him to have to starve.”

She visited a village in the Philippines where hundreds of men bear the scars from surgery to remove a kidney.  While doctors and brokers gets tens of thousands of dollars, the donors are sometimes paid less than $2,000.  Also featured in her documentary, a man who was unemployed and answered an ad on Craigslist.  “They went to an American hospital.  The person who was going to give his kidney lied to the ethics committee, as happens all the time all over the world.  And got through the ethics committee and sold his kidney in the states for $20,000.”

Bienstock says she also wonders whether doctors and ethics panels in the United States are looking the other way in some cases.

You can see Tales from the Organ Trade at Cinema St. Louis

Saturday, November 16th

6 p.m.

Washington University, Brown Hall Auditorium, Forsyth Boulevard and Chaplin Drive (two blocks west of Skinker Boulevard)

 Tales from the Organ Trade Trailer

Copyright KMOX Radio

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